Archive for February, 2009

Co Dependent Nation!

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , , on February 22, 2009 by corecompany

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“The available evidence indicates that the war on drugs is a failed war”, so says Former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardosa. Latin America has grown weary of a failed drug policy and endless violence.  In reading the perspective of Latin America, it’s remarkable how they play the addict to the co-dependant of the US. Just like a sanctimonious co dependant, the U.S. blames the Columbians and other nations for producing the products. Meanwhile we are the consumers. They have to be selling it to someone!!  

The dance of the addict and co dependant is a difficult one to unravel. Co dependants don’t see that they are as sick as the addict, often sicker and so they try to control consumption by controlling availability and blaming. How many of us are guilty of flushing drugs down the toilet or throwing away bottles? This can be done forever and yet the addict will drink and use again. It’s a similar dance with U.S. and Latin America. We say to Columbia “Wouldn’t you rather grow chili peppers or flowers?” but we keep snorting coke and we blame the Columbians? We tell scrub farmers trying to feed their families not to grow the most lucrative product, coca. Coca is deeply ingrained in their culture, contains only trace amounts of cocaine, and is believed to have medicinal purposes. It’s like tea to the English. How far would that go in London?” You have to stop tea production because we don’t like it in America”.  What a mess. What an arrogant, entitled, way to deal with a problem; blaming. with no reflection into our contribution to the problem.  Where is the discourse, the collaboration?

Obama has a unique opportunity to shift this paradigm. He could tariff and regulate products that the American people want and consume. Create a whole new tax base and funding for all kinds of health and human service programs. So what if people want to get high? Who are we to tell them not to? What would be so terrible if you could buy weed at 7-11? What if we did work closely with the Latin American governments and drafted policy that made sense for all Americans, north and south?

Emerson College and their New Amnesty Policy – Good Job!

Posted in Current Events with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2009 by corecompany

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Emerson College in Boston just announced that they have adopted an amnesty policy when students call for help with alcohol and other drug related emergencies.  So, if a bunch of kids are drinking or doing drugs at Emerson, shocking I know, and someone uses poor judgment, again, shocking, it gives the kids freedom to call for help. There are countless examples of deaths involving situations where the kids involved were afraid to call 911. There is an insightful scene in the film “traffic” where the kids were partying and one overdosed, the others were too afraid to call for help and ended up dumping their friend at the entrance of an ER. 

Is this good policy? Does it encourage undergrads to drink and use drugs? The short answer is no, it does not encourage them to drink. It does encourage them to call for help. In my view, this should be national policy and not just on college campuses but in the community as a whole.

Drug abuse correlates to many things: trauma, genetics, exposure to community violence, and interruption in ones experience with the same sex parent. Heroin addiction correlates to many factors but availability of needles isn’t one of them, and yet, we don’t provide clean needles compounding the public health issues with HIV, Hep C and other diseases.

The time for harm reduction has come. The narrow minded, punitive, tough on “crime” thought process has created a mess, a drain on resources, misery to individuals and families.  College campuses are fairly dangerous places. Kids away from home for the first time, impulsive adolescent energy fueled by drugs and alcohol. Parents of sons will not be shocked to hear that decision making is not a strong suit of even the most grounded boy.  Why then, wouldn’t we do everything we can do to reduce the risk factors? 

My son is 4 years old, so it’s not a concern yet (unless I’m in denial), but if he were at a party and drank to the point of needing medical attention, please let someone call for help. If one of the hurdles is fear of getting in trouble, let’s get rid of that. In the same way that I would prefer my son not have sex until he can be responsible, I think I’ll put condoms in his lunchbox. Proper use of condoms reduces pregnancy and spread of disease and “good Samaritan” policy reduces injury and death!  Kudos to Emerson College!

Arizona and the Drug War.

Posted in Current Events with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2009 by corecompany

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PHOENIX……. sun, mountains, golf, tacos, beautiful sunsets, oh and violent kidnappings.

It seems as though Phoenix, now a major gateway to bring drugs into the U.S., is also the leading city for violent kidnappings. Last year Phoenix police received 366 reports of kidnappings for ransom. Most of these, according to the Phoenix police, were closely linked to the drug trade in nearby Mexico.

The Bush administration violated untold liberties in fighting the war on terror. Maybe the terrorist’s plan is to divert attention and resources to a “war on terror” while the drug war rages. How is it that we can fight a war on terror, an abstract concept, when there were 366 kidnappings in Phoenix last year? Is nobody paying attention? The only thing that ended the violence of prohibition was to end prohibition. Is this really such a hard lesson to learn?

DAMMAD or DAMMISGUIDED Steven Steiner?

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , , , , , on February 14, 2009 by corecompany

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DAMMAD.  Check out this website.  Dammad is a grassroots anti-drug organization created by a parent whose “mission is to help fight against the drug problem”.  The Founder of this organization, Steven Steiner, recently had a press release with the person he thought should be the new drug czar. I’m not sure what Mr. Steiner is basing his decision on but I think he should change the name of his group to DAMMISGUIDED or DAMWAYOFFBASE. It’s a shame because Mr. Steiner seems dedicated and passionate to the memory of his son, who died of a drug overdose, but he’s way off base here. It’s a tragic situation, but was his son a casualty of the drug war that his father advocates?

            It’s tough to decide which area of DAMMAD to comment, there are so many bizarre aspects of it. Let’s start with the name. Dads and Mad Moms against drug dealers:  hmmmmm….are there any parents out there actually FOR drug dealers? Where are these pro drug dealer parents? Let’s capture them; a bunch of hippies no doubt. My second comment is really a question for Mr. Steiner: Isn’t it ironic that you have the very company who manufactures and sells (deals) the drug that killed your son listed as a supporter on your website? Also listed is a mini mart – I have no idea, but I speculate that this mini mart sells 40’s and cigarettes. 40’s, liquid crack and nicotine available to junior high kids? I know, I know, they are not of legal age, doesn’t mean they can’t get it!

            One of Mr. Steiner’s strong oppositions is the decriminalization of marijuana.  If his sons chosen intoxicant were marijuana, the kid would be alive today.  He may be functioning at a low level, complacent, blankly staring at video games but he would be alive and there may be hope to engage this young man into treatment.

            Luckily, with his miss the mark advocacy, Steven Steiner won’t be choosing the next drug czar. Clearly with my keen insight and ability to critique almost everyone, I should.  And here’s what I would do: I select ending the post. Czar? I would create a new post. A composite of multidisciplinary professionals. Doctors, social workers, recovery advocates, and lawyers. Steering this committee would be Joe Califano. When I had time, I would gladly head to Washington and dust off my soapbox. It’s hard to demonize Steven Steiner, first off, he lost his son and he seems genuinely concerned about an issue that goes largely unexamined. I welcome a public forum with him. Come to my Loft (sober living facility in Brooklyn, NY) Mr. Steiner and lets chat, we can film it and post it on YouTube and then seek comments, not to find out who is right but to support discourse in the community. 

Joaquin Phoenix, Mental Illness and David Letterman!

Posted in Current Events with tags , , , , on February 13, 2009 by corecompany

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Years ago, Letterman poked fun at Andy Kaufman as he slowly declined into mental illness. It was funny to some; the banter between them offered entertainment. Last night David Letterman had his snarky response to Joaquin Phoenix and his bizarre appearance on The Letterman show. While Letterman is funny, what Phoenix may be dealing with is not. Why is it OK to make fun of mental illness? Would we laugh at cancer? People look funny when they are bald, so why not laugh at cancer? Could Letterman heckle Patrick Swayze and his appearance?

            Joaquin Phoenix was just 19 when his brother died of an overdose. Here we have trauma and family history of addictive disease perhaps depression.  Those two factors play a crucial role in producing addicts.  His parents, not conventional people, seem genuinely concerned and loving but they raised their five children on the road and had them perform on streets and at talent contests in order to buy food and provide the basic necessities.  They were also members of a religious cult in the 60’s but eventually quit the cult and moved to Los Angeles.   Phoenix was treated for his own alcoholism just four years ago. All of these factors and his recent behavior add up to something. He has the look of a schizophrenic and seems largely detached from what is happening around him. None of this is funny….. Its grief, loss, fear, and an inability to handle fame, an emotional construct that cannot handle his talent. He has twice disappeared from the public eye when his fame got too intense.  Not hard to imagine he would derail. And yet, we snicker; laugh at the smarty pants comments of David Letterman. Mental illness is just that, illness and left untreated it won’t self correct.  It’s also not an oddity to be laughed at. Often times, humor can help tense situations but this was not one of those times. Being a big movie star, one would guess Phoenix has handlers. Where are they now?

U.S. Drug Policy is a Total Failure!

Posted in Drug Reform with tags , , , on February 12, 2009 by corecompany

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Former Brazilian president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in collaboration with former Columbian president Cesar Gauiria and former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo have announced that the U.S drug policy is a “total failure”.  The situation with drugs in the US is a mess to be sure. Hard to declare it a total failure since the goals and objectives of the policies are not clearly defined, they are not even murkily defined. What are they designed to do? The Latin American presidents called for a more European model in drafting policy, where drug use/abuse is treated by health officials and not by law enforcement. They issued a statement that said “We are very concerned that the policies of narco-trafficking in the U.S. have practically no public debate today”.  I agree!!

My intention is not to minimize the sacrifice and loss of those individuals who have died in Iraq, but I wonder how many young people have died in the drug war during the time we have been in Iraq?  Are the lives of drug addicts less valuable?  In America it is more likely that black males will be incarcerated than go to college. I’m grateful for President Obama who is providing the belief that there is possibility for black, male youth. Go that extra mile Barack! Ending the paramilitary drug war will save lives, torment, revolutionize the culture, help people get into treatment, and reduce harm. Let’s meet with the Latin Americans and collaborate on Western Hemisphere policy.  I’ll volunteer to go with you for support….

Gil Kerlikowske and Obama – Their War on Drugs!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2009 by corecompany

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It appears as if Gil Kerlikowske, Seattle police chief, will be taking the job of drug czar for the Obama administration.  Kerlikoske has a reputation of being soft on misconduct issues within the department.  As the son of a cop, I understand the absolute loyalty required for a police force so I won’t fault him for giving the benefit of the doubt to the officers. He also has a reputation for being progressive with drug policy. In a bold move, he made marijuana possession the “lowest priority” for the Seattle Police Department. As it turns out, crime dropped.  You can file that under “Mel Brooks is Jewish” or “Oprah’s weight fluctuates”.

By comparison, Kerlikowske in the role of drug czar looks progressive, especially given the move he made in Seattle. This is concerning for a few reasons. The first is that the office of drug czar has been held by the likes of Barry McCaffrey, an army general. His very presence sent the message that the War on Drugs could be led, and won, by paramilitary force. McCaffrey was a short, angry little man who by his own admission made no impact on the availability of cocaine on the streets of US cities.  During McCaffrey’s tenure in office, the DEA employed Blackhawk helicopters to defoliate coca fields in Columbia as part of “Plan Columbia” which was a “humanitarian” aid package of 3 billion dollars to the Columbian government. What happened? Schoolyards, along with coca fields were defoliated by a technological marvel when a single prop crop duster would have done the same job. As an added bonus, teenage boys in both Columbia and US cities were shot, shot by real guns with real bullets but still the disco dust fell and anyone who wanted to get high with cocaine did. Solid work general!

So here we are with an administration being built on Change. Clearly an African American man in the White House, who purpose there is not to pour tea, is a much needed and welcomed change…. but will that revolution translate to the drug policy?  While Kerlikowske is a “change” it is a half measure, a “sort of change”, “change-lite”. Real change would be naming a health care provider to the post, or a doctor with specific training in addiction. This change is throwing a bone and not a very meaty bone at that. Yes, Kerlikowske has a reputation and record of being “hemp friendly” but consider the population he presides over. Seattle! Home of grunge and “Hemp fest”. It’s a close neighbor to Vancouver, the Amsterdam of North America. Was he really so progressive or did he just have the insight to understand that he simply cannot control a population who uses cannabis as their chosen intoxicant? I don’t know the answer but if he agrees to meet with me, I’ll ask him. Kerlikoske is a law enforcement official.  His knowledge, values, and skills are that of a cop. The problem with that is the fact that “policing” addicts doesn’t help them and so we are still living in a culture where chemical abuse, a mental health issue, is being handled by law enforcement. Change?  Perhaps. Maybe “giving in” to the hippie population of Seattle won’t go over on a national level. There’s a possibility that I am way off base and the office will take a baby step toward decriminalizing marijuana. We could even experience a grass roots movement by marijuana users themselves to implement change, although it’s highly unlikely considering their ambition and work ethic.  So, maybe America will move toward more honesty and recognize that people like getting high, which they do in a variety of ways and they will continue to do no matter who holds the office of drug czar.  Personally, I can’t stand the smell of pot, nor the dirty hacky sack culture that often goes with it but I support the right to choose your own method of intoxication regardless of what the DEA says.